This Florida story is one that happens all too often. A driver drank too much at a sporting event, and he got into an accident on the way home. Six innocent people were injured—and one adult and one small child were killed.
Each year, some 11,000 people die as a result of drunk driving, according to the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. That’s the equivalent of one commercial airline crash a week. It’s a sobering statistic.
If only all drivers were as sober.
But another part of the story happens all too often, too. The driver’s insurance company—for reasons unfathomable to everyone who expects the right thing will be done—refuses to settle within policy limits, leaving its own customer at risk for a lawsuit and a verdict that will far exceed the coverage amount.
Insurance carriers have a duty of good faith and fair dealing when it comes to their insured. This means if there’s a chance the claim will be greater than the policy limits—something that’s very likely in a wrongful death lawsuit—insurance carriers must act reasonably by settling within those limits.
In Florida and other states, juries have been quite clear about this, with insurance companies that looked out for themselves, over their clients, ultimately having to pay in excess of the coverage amount—and often a large sum in punitive damages.
Bad-faith insurer decisions are something the Miami injury attorneys at Grossman Roth take very seriously—and have been very successful in correcting.
In this Florida case, partners Stuart Grossman and Andrew Yaffa obtained a multimillion-dollar confidential settlement, well in excess of policy limits, in the wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a horrific car crash caused by a drunk driver—and exacerbated by the bad-faith dealing of his insurer.
The case tragically involves five young children.
On Nov. 19, 2006, our client’s husband and his five children were returning home on Interstate 95, after a trip to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Fla. At the same time, a football fan, who was severely inebriated, was driving home from a Dolphins football game.
The drunk fan rear-ended the Dodge Durango SUV carrying our client’s family with such force that the Durango spun out of control and began to roll on the northbound side of I-95. Although the five children were all properly secured in their child seats with straps and seat belts, all of the children were ejected from the automobile.
A 2-year-old child was killed—as was her father. The other four children, a nanny, and a babysitter were injured.
The inebriated sports fan, whose blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, was so drunk that even after the crash he had no idea he had caused an accident.
In 2009, the defendant was sentenced to 35 years in prison. That brought some justice to the family—but little relief. Our client, devastated by the tragedy that struck her family, has had to raise and support four young children on her own. And still, the insurer—despite minimal insurance coverage in this matter—refused to settle within policy limits.
By acting in bad faith and failing to tender the policy limits in a timely fashion to our client’s family, the defendant’s insurer not only failed to do the right thing—it exposed him to amounts far beyond those policy limits, as well as his ability to pay.
As a direct result of the defendant’s inebriation and reckless action, the wrongful death lawsuit was amended to include a count for punitive damages.
The injustice was clear to the surviving family members. It was clear to their lawyers at Grossman Roth. And ultimately, it was clear to the other side, too. The multimillion-dollar settlement that resulted will ensure that the financial needs of the surviving spouse and children will be met for the rest of their lives.